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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Graduating Seniors

To the Graduating Class of 2020

Be it high school, or college, there has been a unique set of circumstances that have changed your expectations related to your rite of passage and pomp and circumstance that you have worked hard and long to be able to celebrate. 


While you may not have the prom, the parties, the last semester to goof off and to hang out with individuals you may or may not have in your life as you move through your journey, you still have this very moment in time. 


As far as future plans go, you are being called on to adapt and be flexible in ways that you may not have ever thought of. 


2020 was already a catchy way of remembering this marker in your life. 


Set your sights on new horizons and never be discouraged. 


Feel the frustration, the disappointment, the feeling of being robbed of your special day. But continue to feel the joy and anticipation of your future journey. You have reached the dialectic in 2020 -- the 'both-and' rather than the either-or thinking that gets people stuck.


You will become resilient and you will learn the importance of life and you will never take any blessing for granted ever again. 


Congratulations and best of luck and wishes for all the rainbows, silver linings and new beginnings to come your way!!
Food for thought: 20-20 vision is usually about hindsight, but we now have a new meaning for this phrase: it is about having a new perspective. A perspective that will make a difference. A perspective that will serve the individual and society. A perspective that will be lasting. There is no return to 'how things were'; it is about creating a new reality for the future. 20-20 vision is a powerful metaphor for getting things right and seeing things perfectly as they are and as they can be and must be for the future of humanity.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Beacon Bits -- Homage to My Mom

Even before Mother's Day weekend, I have had my mother on my mind. She grew up as a child of immigrants during the challenging times of the Great Depression. As I was growing up, I recall her telling me many times, "I hope you never have to go through what we went through." I heartfully acknowledge I am more blessed than those I worry about in these times, and I am finding ways to show that I care as my mother also taught me, but I also recall that my mother planted the seeds of good self-care and preparation in case of an emergency or tough times. While I resisted stocking cupboards and never wanted to freeze meats or fish for later use, I now see the wisdom of having the cupboards stocked with that 'extra' something(s) that you just may need. However, I mostly feel grateful for the ways that my mother cooked and how she taught me to cook; I call it 'peasant cooking', Norwegian style, and recall fondly her telling me about the soup her mother would make with a fish head and some vegetables so that she was not only able to feed her family of 5, but also have enough for those who fell on even tougher times and did not have a pot of food available to them.

So as I have been stocking my cupboards with some canned items (e.g., beans, stewed tomatoes, sardines -- only King Oscar, the best brand, grains, pasta and staples for baking) and starting to freeze 'leftover' meals so that I can spread out the goodness without having to eat the same meal on a daily basis (e.g., baked ziti, lentil soup), I am thankful for the know-how of cooking from scratch and the memories of my mother's table.

Today I made a variation of her beef stew with tastes of Beef Burgundy and Hungarian Goulash with what I had on hand: shallots, celery, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, red wine, chicken broth,  paprika,  garlic powder, salt and pepper and some herbs de Provence. It was inspired by the arctic freeze and snow on Mt. Beacon and was perfect as a midday meal while listening to the Saturday matinee opera on the radio. The beef was purchased at Nature's Pantry on Rt. 52 in Fishkill (since I am not yet ready to embark on the search for the local farms offering local meats just yet vis-a-vis my new intention--see previous post on 5/3/20); the meat is still a local product and for 4 servings, is very reasonable and was very tender! And with the receipt of my new subscription to Misfits Market today, I am beginning to envision my next 'peasant meal.'

Food for thought: There are just some things that will always be remembered; Mother's cooking and wishes for her children are just some of them. And remembering them this weekend in the midst of other thoughts, feelings, and issues that can be on one's mind, makes it more the special as they 'stew'. For those who are moms, for those who aren't, for those who still have a mom, for those whose moms are resting in peace --- Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Beacon Bits -- Belonging to Boscobel

Within our 'neighborhood' surrounding Beacon, we have the majestic historical landmark, Boscobel, which as noted by the signs on Route 9D, can be everyone's 'home on the Hudson.' I am pleased that I became a 'friend' in 2010 and have maintained membership throughout the years, which is a small way to support its operation. I have been on at least five tours with various docents, with our without visitors or guests that I have brought along and learn something new during each visit; volunteered at holiday and special events on the grounds and within the house when extra help is needed;  and visited the gift shop frequently for special purchases for myself or others, which have made the best gifts all around. (I have also attended ten seasons of Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF) under the tent on the grounds overlooking the Hudson River with its iconic vista of West Point.) So in these times, when the opening of the house and grounds for guided tours is on 'pause' and the notification to ticketholders that the 2020 season of HVSF has been cancelled, it was a real treat to be 'invited' as a member to consider the privilege of making a visit to the grounds by appointment when I recently received an email. It turned out to be a picture perfect day and the pictures tell it all.

Food for thought: Please consider a membership as a way of suppporting this nonprofit organization in our midst. It is not too late to join for this season. I recently learned that it takes $3000 per day to maintain its operations. The Federalist level is $150 per year with season pass benefits and discounts for the gift shops and other events in addition to admission with four passes for the house tours and grounds privileges. It is a worthwhile donation. It is the neighborly thing to do. Especially now. You will not want to miss the view and sense of peaceful renewal that the landscape offers. And you will feel good about contributing to our local treasure. If you are already a member, consider purchasing a membership as a gift for a friend or family member to appreciate the history in our midst.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Beacon Bits -- Choices

No excuses - I have more time to blog now, but I did write a post that I had to delete. It was about finding sanctuary at my church home that technically is closed, but the doors have been open for silent prayer with safe distance and music on Sunday mornings. It has been restorative during these times when I attend.

This post is about something different than my usual posts, but it is stilld about local resources within proximity to Beacon. I got inspired to write this post after watching the news last week, which showed the meat packing industry's response to re-opening at the President's request despite the dangers and risks for its workers in order to keep the food supply chain unencumbered. I was appalled at the footage on PBS related to the 'farming' of the masses of pigs for the industry to have for its pork production. They compared and contrasted it with other smaller midwest farmers that have chosen to raise fewer pigs with more ethical practices. The visual difference between pens of pigs, loin to loin, vs. two to three pigs with piglets in a pen with the chance to roam was eye opening. 

Full disclosure -- I am not vegan, nor am I vegetarian, nor would I am planning to make a decision to become meat free. In general, I eat very little meat and poultry, and rely mostly on fish, vegetables and complex carbohydrates and fruit to survive; I also believe it is in the 'right' proportion that was intended for us to eat. When I saw the TV broadcast, it was apparent that the only reason that cost of mass production vis-a-vis the consumer comes into play is twofold: (1) profit for the corporation and (2) cheaper prices for consumers so they can eat large and unhealthy amounts of meat products, which has led to one of the many risk factors for coronavirus---that is, obesity--due to fast food and unhealthy eating habits. It came full circle --- the only benefit of the large centralized meat production industry in this country is for the corporations who desire more profit and do not care for their workers. So if Cesar Chavez had his rallying call for fair wages for the migrant farmers, maybe it is time we have a reclaimed locally farmed meat economy that benefits the families and workers who are committed to their community and can be held responsible for ethical business and production practices. (I believe poultry farming has somewhat had its day to reclaim improved and ethical egg production with cage-free practices.)

I guess I can lay claim to my my family heritage related to farming here. My mother's family had a farm in Sola near Stavanger Norway and I recall their practices in 1962 when I visited. I will never forget the carrot and strawberry and milk that I, as a girl raised in Brooklyn, had to taste on that farm so long ago. The farm fed them and they were able to sustain a living by selling to local markets.  I am grateful and aware that I see the same kinds of practices are returning to our Hudson River Valley with CSAs and locally raised farm stock for our purchase. A long-time supporter of CSAs, now it's time to step it up for livestock farmers.

So this blog is about sharing my resolve to only shop for meat from local farmers who are operating with sustainable practices and who are ethically responsible; this is one choice and a response to what we all need to learn to do going forward in order to change our living habits accordingly. By doing so, I will support the local farmers and eat my small amounts of meat and poultry, which by far is healthier, and at least does not put money into the pockets of greedy owners who operate centralized meat packing industry at the expense of their employees. Higher cost is not an issue for a higher quality of meat in the just right amount of what an individual should be consuming to begin with; no super sizing needed!

Food for thought:  I have begun to do some research and offer the following suppliers for meat and poultry in the Beacon area. I am sure we will need to keep visiting their websites in order to be aware of current practices. Check back for updates and recipes related to this new source of locally raised farm stock.

Grass & Grit --
Arch River Farm -
Glynwood -

Monday, March 30, 2020

Beacon Bits -- Both Sides Now

The song "Both Sides Now" that Judy Collins made famous did not necessarily refer to the "both-and" dialectic, which is a current phrase appropriate for our times. But the song comes to mind when we think of how the pandemic and its dire consequences are occurring across the country and the globe. These are terrible times, for sure, but at the same time, the concept of resilience has been alluded to again and again.  

Think of the old bumper sticker, "Shit Happens." Everyone knew what it meant (that is, bad things happened randomly) and everyone could relate to it. But did you know that there was also a bumper sticker that was popularized in the 1990's that stated, "Grace Happens." Grace is the concept of free and unmerited goodness that is available to all. Perhaps some people relate to the concept of grace more than others. Yet, when we simultaneously think of these two bumper stickers, we can see that it is never a matter of 'either/or', but more importantly, we can see it as the 'both/and' of any situation. Bad things happen and good things happen. Simultaneously. Concurrently. Both sides now.

Thinking about this in the midst of the day-to-day hardships and challenges created by the pandemic that has caused a radical change in routines, income, predictability, control and any semblance of security and safety, we may be reminded that there is a gift being given in the midst of the pain. We can begin to entertain the world of both/and thinking.

That is what 'resilience' really is. It is not just grit and tireless motivation to overcome a difficulty when crisis or trauma occurs. Resilience is not just about returning to baseline; it is not just about bouncing back. Resilience is about become stronger or more adaptive because of new information that is integrated or learning that has occurred during the hardship. Learning is about changing behavior. It may also reflect a change in attitude or perspective that is adopted so that the capacity to be more flexible is possible.

So, this is all 'food for thought'. What is the 'grace' that you are finding in the midst of all the 'shit' that is going on in our world at this time? How are you personally being affected in negative ways and what is the positive outcome for you? What are you learning and how are you being changed? What do you want to return to and what are you ready to give up? How will you integrate this point in time in your future worldview? Have you found grace?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Beacon Bits -- The World is Our Community Now

Lessons to Learn for Children (and Adults) @ Home 
During the Coronavirus Pandemic

For some time now, people have heard about ‘resilience’. Sometimes the term is used correctly and sometimes it is a bit expanded vis-à-vis its intended meaning; it seems to have become the fastest growing catch phrase used in our current day vernacular language.

The sense of resilience as being able to bounce back from hardship or trauma or extreme and even life-threatening events is one aspect of resilience. Think of a rubber band that can be flexible as it rebounds from the stress of being stretched beyond its limit. Contrast that with a dried-out rubber band that will just snap.  Another important and understated aspect of resilience is being able to go beyond the baseline that you hope to bounce back to and to have the events that you have endured transform you to a new level that you may not have reached before. In this case, think of the rubber band as a muscle that gains strength from being stretched repetitively; it becomes better and stronger than it was before.

Therefore, in these dire times, I propose the idea that we all need to build our ‘resilience’ muscle daily. Everyone enduring the hardships of the impact that the coronavirus is observing it from a different perspective and everyone has varying degrees of pre-existing resilience. There is no one size fits all solution to the problem of how to cope and deal with the increasing levels of stress and anxiety that have only just begun. But we can all learn new skills and build upon our existing strengths in order to persist and overcome our predicament, thereby increasing our resilience reserve.

One rule of thumb for managing stress is that predictability and control influence the perception of stress. That is, if something is predictable, it is less stressful. If someone can exert personal control, there is less stress. In the case of coronavirus, every individual is limited because there may not be an overwhelming sense of predictability or control over the matter. However, the focus of someone who is willing to use new strategies to build resilience, may indeed have a sense of predictability and control in a very personal and meaningful way. So, by focusing on becoming more resilience, you will feel less stress.

Let me give some examples about how to deal with schools being closed with the ensuing disruptions to daily living and work routines so that one could imagine the experience of this unique and overbearing related to the pandemic may lead to personal transformation and perhaps even improvement in the lives of children, parents and adults.

Old Fashioned Values and Lessons
Families will have enough time on hand to do a ‘fact check’ about existing manners and degree of etiquette that are prevalent in their attitudes and actions. Practicing tables manners and discussing various topics that are in the news about social distancing vs. social isolation and how the elderly are particularly at risk is a good starting point. Asking relevant questions (e.g., How do we respect the elderly? What makes a good neighbor?) and focusing on actual behaviors will take the discussion beyond concepts to determining how the value is demonstrated, executed and carried out. The actions that are brainstormed may lead to prosocial activities (e.g., shopping at local stores, sending text messages, making phone calls, collecting mail or walking a dog) and by practicing such behaviors, they are more likely to become internalized for future actions.

Nature’s Way
What better time than spring to note how resilient nature is as one witnesses the first bloom of crocus and daffodils, the birds building nests, and damaged bushes returning to life after the hit of winter. Create a scavenger hunt or “I Spy” game that makes being outdoors and in nature purposeful so that observation skills are honed, and hope begins to take root. Plant seeds indoors that will be ready to plant later in the spring. Re-pot house plants. Plan an outdoor community garden. Get ready for the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day on April 22 by reviewing why it started in 1970 (e.g., the impact of the classic expose written by Rachel Carson in her book Silent Spring) and how much more relevant Earth Day is in light of climate change and actions that must be taken to reverse the irreversible, both on a global and personal level. Practice composting. Review household use of carbon. Determine how the family can reduce its carbon footprint. 

The power of gratitude should never be taken lightly. Much has been written about the positive effects of regular accounting of things that are worth celebrating with gratefulness. On a daily basis, list 3 to 5 items that each person in the family feels grateful about. Post the lists on the refrigerator or keep them in a journal. Have children write ‘thank you’ cards for health care workers and first responders that can be sent by snail mail, email or posted on websites. Bolstering hope and inspiration results from the expression of gratitude and helps to build the resilience muscle because it is a reframing of what one might otherwise feel hopeless about.

“Hands-On” (clean and sanitized ones, of course)
While it used to be called ‘arts and crafts’, the ‘maker’ movement today has taken hold because of the need to balance what we do with our hands and how we create as an antidote to all the technology we use. What better time than to teach children how to write in script? Take out samples of letters or cards or find samples online and review why it may be important to read and write manuscripts written in cursive writing. If a school district has already returned to teaching the skill, do some investigative reporting on deciphering what grandparents and/or parents had written in script. If everyone knows cursive writing, learn some calligraphy and practice the strokes with uplifting messages that can be decorated with collage materials to make some folk art.

Real Life Math
Without relying on calculators, return to basic mathematical problem solving. Cooking lessons using kitchen measurement tools, budgeting activities with actual invoices and determining the relationships of miles and travel times to reach the destinations that the GPS is programmed to do. There are many readily available tasks at home. Proposing an allowance or ways to save money (e.g., put away a quarter plus one for every week of the calendar year) can be used to demonstrate delaying gratification for a purchase that can be made once the pre-determined amount of money is saved.

Staying in place and being home can lead to boredom. Introduce ‘novelty’ – the brain needs it and will seek it out, so channel the energy for doing something new in a productive way. Use Duolingo or Rosetta Stone to select a language that is new for all family members and learn it together. This could include American Sign Language.  Assign each person the task of teaching a skill to everyone after learning it for the first time using YouTube videos that are readily available (e.g., crocheting, knitting, making bread.) Change up your music listening habits. If you listen to hip hop, try an opera. If you listen to classical, try bluegrass. Opening a new door of listening choices may forever expand your options. Regarding dietary habits, you may be eating less meat incidentally with shortages at the market, so it could be time to explore vegetarian or vegan recipes, which may be good for health reasons. Purchasing local produce is a way to increase fruits and vegetable consumption and you may be ahead of the curve in supporting communication supported agriculture (CSA) initiatives in the area.

Self-Soothing Activities
Everyone can benefit from new ways of relaxing and managing stress without indulging in destructive or negative ways of avoiding stress or numbing the discomfort.  Learning deep breathing techniques and practicing it throughout the day with a special signal or buzzer to alert someone that they need to breathe, not just at times of distress, is a healthy strategy to self sooth. Deep muscle relaxation, yoga, hand or foot soaks or bubble baths, listening to classical or new age music, exploring mindfulness meditation or centering prayer are additional tools for managing stress.

Better Balance
Without the usual routines (e.g., going to school/work), places of recreation (e.g., the movie theaters, restaurants, gyms, athletic events) and community gathering space (e.g., lack of congregate worship services, libraries, cultural centers), one might begin to use the internet, explore online sources, stream entertainment, and otherwise resort to television and smart technology to a level that might actually have the rebound effect of overstimulation and information overload. Intentionally and specifically unplug at designated times. Practice quiet time. Learn to be comfortable with silence. Place signs around the house that the house is in ‘silence’ or ‘unplugged.’

Community Mindedness
Without the usual go to places, you may feel more cut off and isolated. But it may also be a time to make list of your favorite places you usually shop and then decide to support the small business in multiple ways. Decide to do take-out or buy a gift certificate from your favorite restaurant(s), make a donation (goods or money) to your favorite nonprofit, make other local purchases from stores that offer curbside pick-up or delivery rather than ordering from Amazon, and wherever possible, donate or volunteer at your local food pantry to help neighbors in need.

Food for thought: The ‘tips’ above are not all inclusive, and do not include healthy eating, exercise and good sleep, which are assumed as a basis for resilience, but they are the beginning of small steps for taking personal responsibility for one’s own capacity (or one’s family capacity) for being resilient. These tips do not include volunteering in community efforts that are assisting others. Avenues for altruism, social support and outreach are popping up each day on a local (e.g., Mutual Aid Beacon), regional (e.g., Hudson Valley Help) and countywide basis (e.g., Dutchess County’s Dutchess Responds and Medical Reserve Corps) and are important to investigate and engage in within one’s own personal constraints. ‘Doing for others what you would like done for yourself’ is a valuable mechanism for improving positivity and self-esteem, but it is an important time to remind ourselves that what one can and must do for oneself is also imperative at this time of crisis.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Beacon Bits -- Finding a 'Helper'

As Mr. Rogers tells us, when there is a crisis or emergency or when you are feeling unsafe or uncertain, just look for the 'helpers'; they are always there. This reminder serves us well. Perhaps it is something that all of us can bring to mind in coming days of the pandemic.

While that sounds like a dramatic opening to this blog entry, I can attest to the fact that during this past week of scouting out my needed groceries and recommended supplies, including a safety net of hand sanitizers and wipes, as you are shopping, you can feel the level of anxiety and stress climbing. After leaving CVS and Rite Aid empty handed when looking for rubbing alcohol having just found the recipe for making one's own hand sanitizer, I was driving away from Main Street but then gave pause as I passed the new pharmacy in town on the corner kitty-cornered to Rite Aid. Beacon Wellness Pharmacy at 333 Main Street has been open for quite a while, yet I had not gone into the store to browse what was stocked, and luckily, I haven't had the need for any prescriptions to be filled. So I hesitated a moment,  but parked anyway,  thinking I had nothing to lose and that perhaps this was the opportunity I had been looking for to stop in to check out the pharmacy.
When I entered, the well-spoken and handsome pharmacist, Enrique Reynoso, RPH, MBA,  greeted me and responded 'yes, I do' when I stated rather than ask, 'I think I know the answer to my question, but do you have any rubbing alcohol above 60%?' I was taken aback with surprise and delight and saw there were several bottles on a shelf across from the counter. I felt lucky and asked my next question, 'any alcohol wipes', thinking of small items like the iPhone to clean off; again -- 'yes' was the response. 
At this time, another customer in the store who had been listening asked 'why haven't you put a sign in the window' and the answer 'I do not want to capitalize on the situation' felt like it was the correct response and demonstrated the old-fashioned values of the store owner. The other customer had also come into the pharmacy for the first time after noting he had been to the local hardware store and had found face masks that were just delivered. I knew I would not be heading there for face masks because I had taken the advice seriously not to use them unless ill and to allow them to be available for those who may require them for work since there was such a shortage. Tough times require discernment when making choices. 
I spoke to the pharmacist as I paid for my purchases, whom I decided was deserving of my respect as well as my business,  and told him I would return, which I did indeed do within a few days to purchase some vitamin D3, notably a vitamin that can boost the immune system already part of my routine regimen. I purposely went to Beacon Wellness Pharmacy for that purchase and for a chance to chat a bit more and to explore the store. I knew I would return again for purchases in the future especially after inquiring about insurances accepted learning that the pharmacy does take my health insurance plan.

Food for thought: Finding a 'helper' in the community was not necessarily what I was looking for last week, but now I know another place to go for help when needed. I recommend a visit to the Beacon Wellness Pharmacy to explore your options knowing that bigger is not always better and chain stores that give coupons or bonus points are not the be all and end all when you can develop a personal relationship with a professional pharmacist who is also an entrepreneur who invests in the community.  I actually found the pricing to be fair at Beacon Wellness and the variety of items to be sufficiently diverse. The experience of visiting this pharmacy (albeit a bit late) called to mind that when I first moved to Beacon, there was a small, family-owned pharmacy on Main Street that I visited, which was part of my getting to know the community (i.e., the library is always #1 on the list when moving into a different community.) The disappearance of the old independent pharmacy and its replacement with a new structure is a part of the emerging Beacon that I've witnessed over the 10 years of living in this community; another sign that property on Main Street was a good investment and has paid off in the current market. The visit to Beacon Wellness Pharmacy also reminded me of my neighborhood pharmacy when I grew up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn where my mother would send me, not only to shop, but to ask the pharmacist for information, advice and direction. The pharmacist always knew the answers to important questions and would lend a helping hand for any child who appeared with a skinned knee after taking a fall when risking rollerskating on broken concrete sidewalks. So with found memories of my childhood pharmacist and knowing that a business with good values is worth supporting on Main Street, I look forward to future visits to learn more about the 'enlightened health products for body, mind and soul' that Mr. Reynoso offers in his corner of the world in Beacon!